Update: Blackberries April 2021 Part 2

By Melinda Hatfield

They have begun to flower. I know it is a process but I do enjoy waiting for these beasties to produce. I am excited to see them come into bloom and see what kind of taste they have.

I have no idea what kind of thornless blackberries these are. They were unlabeled excess that I purchased last year in bulk. It was a decent deal for the amount that I purchased.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is the first year they have been able to properly fruit and I am excited to see the outcome. I did not trellis my blackberries. Most of them stand upright on their own other hover over the ground.

I wanted to see what they would do naturally. So far the results aren’t awful and it seems they are producing flowers with little to no maintenance.

By Melinda Hatfield

I didn’t realize how many shoots come off the floracane. Not that it matters but in the picture below you’ll see the prima canes starting at the base of the plant. Last year I clipped half back mid summer and it seemed to have caused more side shoots.

I did notice that I have less growth when I don’t cut the tips but they are better at standing upright without the additional pressure and weight of the new shoots.

By Melinda Hatfield

So I bought these black berries in bulk because they were out of growing season and they didn’t have tags. Nameless babies but I am sure they will be delicious.

Some of the bushes have white flowers and some have pink ones. I must say that this makes me curious if they taste different. All I know is that they make it fun and diverse.

By Melinda Hatfield

I cannot wait to see what our first true harvest will look like.

I hope that our blackberries spread (like people have said they will) so that I can uproot and plant more berry patches. I really enjoy blackberries as a fruit. It’s too bad they do not have the shelf life to be sold in most box stores.

By Melinda Hatfield

Above is our only thorny blackberry bush that made it. We have some white blackberries but their roots were not established enough and they were very young plants and were taken out by the winter storm.

Lesson learned. Until next time…

Stout Creek Farms: An exciting new adventure

I am super excited. I went to Stout Creek Farms and it was amazing. First, let me explain: it was for a job interview. I know, but remember although I do dye shirts as a side business- I have a to have a day job and this is a hobby blog. So now that that is settled… I am excited to do what I love and learn more about the world. Not the world that we know with cell phones and gadgets but the world we live in with life, plants and animals.

When I started this journey I never imagined that I would be able to see so many cool things and learn so much. The people at Stout Farms are serious about regenerative agriculture. They want to put carbon back into the soil, ethically raise livestock, and just leave the world a better place. They are amazing people and this is amazing work they are doing. Being here this week, even though it wasn’t for very long (so far), has been inspirational.

Me, I’m slightly different in my approach and end game goals: I want to live in a jungle. Doing right by the planet is a perk, but I want to live in a jungle and teach people how to create their own jungles. You know so we can hide away in our own forests and listen to the world.

I want people to learn that they can create a jungle they can eat and how easy it is to be in control of the food you eat and how to be food secure in their own back yard. Imagine if people invested in putting money into growing trees and shrubs that are edible- a surplus of food can only be beneficial to the world and to people, to the community and would leave things better than they were.

They are amazing people who do amazing work, and it was very cool and I am excited about this new adventure.

A lot of information was thrown at me. I’m not going to lie, I knew a lot but I also didn’t know a lot. They are self informed individuals who love what they do and have obtained crazy amounts of research. The only animal I am personally considering on my own homestead/food forest is ducks and possibly chickens, but now that I see it I am leaning more towards ducks. Hanging out here might change my mind, but who knows what the universe has in store for me. All I know is working here for the little time I have has caused me to really think about my own habits and lifestyle.

They have a super professional website that does not do them justice- they have so much going on at their farm. They are putting it back into the soil- carbon that is- and ethically raising livestock. I helped them move cows and sheep and feed the chickens- I know I can learn so much here and I cannot wait.

I enjoy the work, it is full of adventures and there is something new every single day.

They move the sheep and cows and chickens from plot to plot in order to fertilize the ground and create fresh grazing areas for their animals. Their animals seem so happy (and vocal- they know when it is time to move and are excitedly waiting) and they have donkeys to guard their livestock and they have working dogs. I am not sure I got a picture of those but it was cool to see them in action.

I am excited that I will be going back to this farm daily. It is amazingly beautiful and I am excited.

Things that I want think would be amazing:

  • Starting a large berry patch, but first I have to figure out which ones would do best in this soil. I have to get together and start planning with the team to figure out where and how- which berries and which spots of land.
  • Starting an apple orchard, like a real one not like this patch work backyard orchard I am starting. One that has been planned to perfectly work with nature but also produce delicious organic fruit.
    • Along with this I want to experiment with multiple grafts on apple trees to see if we can get the trees to produce all season long.
    • For example: we would put one early fruiting one, one middle fruiting on another, a early summer fruit producer and a late summer fruit producer.
    • Also, I think that apples are one of the most diverse fruits. They can make flour, sauce, they go good in meals, as a snack, in pies… if you can’t tell- I’m a fan.
  • Peach trees are always a fan favorite and I think it would be really cool to do a similar grafting scheme but with 3 cultivars on each instead, at least until the trees are older.
    • Peaches do really well in East Texas and it would be amazing to really show off how amazing peaches can be.
  • Plums are a popular tree to grow in Texas as well, although I am not a fan many people love them. I know they do well but like peaches they do not self pollinated (but with all fruit trees having different kinds helps with pollination)
    • My kids love plums and there are many varieties that do well in our area and they are a primary fruit export in Texas- like peaches- which I thought was amazing.
  • Grape vines. I want to make their drive green with grapes. There are thousands of types of grapes- what if we just grew them all.
    • Let’s say we plant six of the same kind year one. Year two we are going to plant a new kind or maybe two new kind. As the years progress we can always go back to our favorites, but wouldn’t that be neat?
    • Then not only would we be producing grapes but we could also be a learning center for:
      • The 4H, viticulture enthusiasts, horticulture majors, agriculture majors… and on and on.
      • Schools could have field trips where the kids take a tour of the vineyard and find out how grapes are produced and how easy it is to plant something cool. This can apply to anything we are growing.
      • Grapes are amazingly hardy for our zone and there are hundreds of grape varieties. Not all grapes are the same and they bush out to be absolutely beautiful in the summer.
  • Vegetable garden- I want to be a master gardener now. I have got to get in contact with the local ag extension office and see who to contact. Growing a vegetable garden is going to be one of the most rewarding things. We have multiple growing seasons in Texas and we can rotate crops of pasture.
    • Working here (mind you it has only been a day and all I did was clean up half of their beds that already exist) has made me see the potential and they are doing amazing things regeneratively from the soil to compost.
      • I am going to make lots of compost and see how we can find better ways to grow vegetables in our zone and potentially encourage others to do the same thing.
      • I already started propagating plants. I am just too excited.
    • They are very interested in farm to fork and that would be amazing. Imagine making your own meals from Apple flour bread as an appetizer with a garlic goat butter glaze over top. Followed by meat that is 100% organic on the farm, grape juice made on the farm, apple cider during the winter, bond fire nights where you tell scary stories and eat berries by the fire.
    • I’m just one big run on, rambling but it would be so exciting to see people enjoy the fruits and vegetables that are growing by you.
  • The Stout Farm could use some wild flower diversity and I would love to find out the right mix that would not only benefit the soil but add additional nutrition to the animals. I am sure the information is out there. I just have to find it.
    • They have done their research but I absolutely adore Indian paintbrushes and other diverse native wildflowers. Possibly throwing out some seeds in order to encourage growth.
  • Making the ultimate plant fertilizer. They have so much poop, I know that with the right mixture I can create the perfect fertilizer for these plants.
    • I finally figured out what I am going to do with their machine. I am going to create compost with their poop and with what they already have I am going to create mounds.
    • I have to remember Drip irrigation similar to what I have because it is easy to check and replace lines if necessary and I have had none of those shenanigans in a year- but also because it is ran on a timer. And my timer has been neglected because I just leave it out in the elements. Since this is professional I’ll definitely suggest some sort of cover. We can’t all live like heathens.
  • So many projects run through my head but we have to start with some trees and we need to drive around together and find out what they want to do and where.
  • Oh and don’t let me forget: morel mushrooms. We have got to start growing those naturally in the wooded areas that aren’t being utilized. We want to encourage mushrooms to grow in order to help breakdown organic matter but also because they are delicious fried in butter and crackers and served as an appetizer.

Not going to lie… my imagination went wild when I found I had the job. I immediately thought- drip irrigation, but I should ask. So now I am looking forward to taking my current knowledge of blackberries to start a patch- that will be fun and I can’t wait.

One step at a time: current beds, garden up front, orchard and berry patch planning… I am just going crazy staying up all night looking into fun things. I cannot wait until finals are over so that I can focus more. Two more weeks and I can fully devote my time to really establishing the foundation for their own magical regenerative forest. (Also I want to take a class on Native American agricultural techniques. How do I make that happen?) So many things I want to do now and you know what? I can’t wait.

I just want to contribute to making the world a better place and yes, I do things that aren’t planet friendly sometimes- why shouldn’t we make the world a better place? This is where I think I should be. The universe is calling me to a place where I can experience all of my allergies while doing what I love.

Stay tuned because they have an amazing set up where I have access to all of the compost I could desire and there is no stopping me now. I cannot wait. This place is really something and I cannot wait to learn as much as I can from this amazing regenerative farm.

Also they have ducks. I should have mentioned them. Regardless, I am excited to embark on this journey. Please remember that every big dream has someone who is in control and this is their regenerative kingdom and I am at their mercy truly, but I think my ideas are okay and could always use improvement.

Until next time…

Horticulture: What I didn’t know

My salad barnett

Why didn’t I learn this stuff when I was in school? I’m amazed. Regardless, horticulture is a field of agriculture that deals with every aspect of plants from business to science and even the art of growing ornamental plants. Horticulture covers everything from ornamental plants and office plants to fruits and vegetables. Horticulture is different than other fields of agriculture for a lot of reasons, but mainly (from what I’ve learned) because we deal in landscape and artistic design.

The fields of the landscape industry according to my professor are installation, maintenance, irrigation, and design. This is not every part of horticulture and is only one of three different primary industries within horticulture. Inside each field of the landscaping industry there are many different jobs and needs that we most likely work with regularly on our homesteads or farms. The landscape industry as a whole deals in the design, installation and maintenance of home and commercial landscapes.

My tree

In the cities landscape is the most recognizable industry and is one of the largest industries in the entire State of Texas, allegedly with over nine billion in total added revenue to the state’s economy. This may not take in to account the kids who are looking for summer work, but it is clear that it is one of the easiest fields to get into.

When we talk about installation we are discussing the full destruction of a previous landscape and creating a completely new design or modifying an existing plants. Sure, it seems like fun but demolition of existing systems can take a lot of work and effort. It includes: bed preparation, adding organic matter to beds and tilling the soil before new transplants are added. This also includes adding things like rock walls, paths and structures that benefit the landscape or area of attention. It’s not hard to see why this area is one of the highest in profitability but is seasonal work because grass doesn’t grow in the winter.

My tree

Maintenance is also just more than maintaining existing landscapes. This can also be turf maintenance, which if you didn’t know is what we use on golf courses and sports fields. This could be anything from mowing the yard to making sure that edging and trimming is properly done around the fencing and other fixed structures. This work is usually low pay but can be continuous throughout the entire year with only a small decline during the winter months.

Irrigation is something that I have just started learning about outside of class- I set up my own crappy five hundred dollar system. Now irrigation system managers may assist in the initial installation of a landscape system or they may work in maintaining existing sprinkler and irrigation systems. They usually work on larger commercial projects or they have many smaller projects in a larger city and people who go into this field can specialize in irrigation design which I didn’t not know was a real life thing. This does require a license in Texas with TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, there is design, which seems to be incorporated in each and every single industry so far. They are usually in charge of designing new or existing landscapes. They usually design large commercial projects or for residential customers. If you are working in a large city you may be required to get plans from a landscape architect (who knew this existed) and those people are specifically certified by the ASLA (American Society for Landscape Architecture). Sometimes these people also specialize in irrigation in design, which I thought was kind of neat.

A big thing to look at with landscaping is that they do a lot of work with turf grass, which if I’m reading properly it should be an industry of it’s own. Especially because turf grass is widely used by sports fields and golf courses. This falls under the care and maintenance and is covered under the landscaping industry, rightly so, but is a huge part.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

All in all I had no idea there were so many different types of landscaping and we haven’t even gotten through the rest of horticulture. Allegedly this is the most important because it is the most money making. Landscaping, it’s the most commercialized and has the highest profit margins. So if you’re looking for money to be made it’s from people looking for these services and for some reason I was a dummy and thought it might have something to do with food, but I was wrong.

Now onward to the other fields that are equally important regardless of how valuable it is to commercial America. After landscaping we have interiorscape. Just to let you know I don’t think that’s a real word, I know that it’s all over the internet and they say that it is a word and so we’re running with it. Spell check says no too though, so they should get together and work on that.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

This specific industry deals specifically on the inside. That works with the installation and maintenance of landscapes inside buildings or structures. This doesn’t seem like a very common or wide range field. Yes, there are plants in the majority of buildings but the majority of buildings do not require someone to set them up. This is specifically to help businesses to establish a natural environment inside their building. For example a fancy fountain with fish at the bottom and the whole ecosystem that goes along with that. You might find these in fancy malls, hospitals, banks, offices or other environments where there are people who want an enjoyable and relaxing environment. Sometimes they might design an enclosure in a zoo. This is where they must design an environment that is suitable and specifically designed for the animal; that’s temperature, plants they are comfortable with and everything else that goes into recreating a temperature controlled environment. Although, this is usually done for primates.

After Interiorscape and Landscaping we have Floriculture. This one doesn’t pass the spell check either. I didn’t know they had a name specifically for flower people, but here we are. These people specifically deal in the production, sell and use of flowers. It’s got a lot of layers to it but floriculture serves a purpose in landscaping, but is a lot more than growing flowers in yards and it also is used in specialized greenhouse production. Floriculturists provide insight on color (especially seasonal color) and pretty much all plants that are used in interiorscapes. They are known for their ornamental plants and their pretty flowers and deal in anything from pothos ivy to flowers that we see in flower shops.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

They are the growers of flowers you cut to make bouquets with as well as flowers that go into pots or in garden beds. This industry is the primary job in greenhouse production. That’s because floriculture deals in bedding plants, which is where plants are grown in tiny little pots to get ready for transplanting in a garden or a landscape. They also work with foliage, which are plants that are grown specifically for their pretty leaves instead of their flowers. They are the primary flower producers and in order to protect those flowers from being eaten by bugs before they hit the floral shops they grow them in greenhouses. Finally they work with potted plants and flowers, but this is mainly used in interiorscaping and not to be confused with plants that are grown for transplant.

The nursery is what you hear most about, or at least I do. I hear more about this because the people I am around go to nurseries a lot and so do I. They work in the production and sale of perennials, trees, shrubs and ground covers. Nurseries can be owned locally or by large box stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart. Really, I advise everyone to shop locally, but I cannot deny sometimes they have things that I want and need.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, my two favorite fields in the whole world and that is because they are the ones that I am most particularly interested in. Fruit and nut production is the first one, because as we all know I’ve been working hard towards growing my fruit trees and berry bushes. From fruit and nut production we have the two largest fields for fruit and nut production in Texas: pomology and viticulture. Pomology is concerned with fruit trees; in Texas it’s primarily peaches, pecans and plums but it can also include apples and citrus. Viticulture deals with grapes and grape production, this is particularly useful in wineries and vineyards. Although, you would think that this would be a big deal in Texas most of our production is done by people like me: hobbyists.

The last one would be Olericulture and if you hadn’t guessed by now this would be the field of horticulture that deals with the production and sale of vegetables. I am not going to lie when I tell you that I expected that this would actually be more in the higher profit margins because I see vegetables everywhere when I got to the supermarket. I am wrong, this is not the most profitable. Actually, if you want the honest truth it’s not even driven by vegetable sales it’s driven by hobby farmers like me and possibly you.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Learning about horticulture has really helped me see that there is more than just one field to go into and I am excited about it. I am still learning and have a lot to learn but as I learn so will you or not. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll look into it. Regardless, have a great day.

After the snowpocalypse 2021

Our Swiss chard had stayed alive up until that freeze and then well- it did not agree. It is brown but makes for pretty pictures

I can’t help it if I like earthy tones.

My sweet lemon thyme was barely bothered. You can see a little bit of frost damage on the leaves but this one will most certainly survive.

I am not going to lie I am really excited they made it through and I am thinking about doing a mass propagation and using this as part of my groundcover. I am kind of excited to see how it plays out.

Not going to lie. I thought my parsley was done for, but there is a little bit of green growing back. It really is a winter mericle but I am excited that the parsley made it out alive.

Parsley isn’t a fan favorite so I probably won’t spread it around but I do like having some on hand just in case.

My fairy garden looks like trash. I just want that noted but I just don’t have the heart to fix it because it is a habitat for so many bugs and birds use these areas to forage for food. I dunno, maybe I should, but things are coming back. Who knows what is good or bad?

Salad Barnett saw no changes. Looks just as bushy as ever. I think I might spread this one out as well. It just seems to do so well and stays green all year. It gives great coverage for insects seeking shelter from the cold and for birds to forage for food.

My English thyme is looking a little frost bitten but I don’t see any reason to be concerned. The plant will continue to grow and is another keeper. We like cooking with it and now we know it can survive cold winters we are sold.

A lot of oregano died but a lot survived. I am glad because this is one of our favorite herbs and we love the way it makes our hands smell. I am going to spread this one around as well. I am just happy to see that the plants are coming back to life. Fingers crossed we don’t get another freeze.

My sweet rosemary. Funny thing: the one outside lived the ones inside died horrible slow deaths. I dont know how it happened but this baby survived and once clipped back this spring will spring into life. I cannot wait. I am super excited.

Finally the sage which survived with flying colors. I didn’t even see any frost damage. I will definitely replant garden sage throughout my permaculture food forest. It seems hardier than the others.

I did not take a picture but my snap dragons survived as well. More to come but things have been busy.

Rosemary Indoors

I am having a lot of fun with rosemary. It is one of my favorite herbs to grow in our garden. I started rosemary in 2020 and I fell in love. Have you ever just taken your face and moved your face between their leaves? It is the greatest experience.

Also this is another perennial for my area. One thing I learned is that perennial doesn’t mean that it will live forever. It only gives the promise of three or more years. The more you know, right?

Rosemary is evergreen that boosts the immune system and helps blood circulation. This plant is high in antioxidants, improves digestion, enhancing memory and concentration, neurological protection, protection against macula degeneration, and many other amazing uses. They have this disclaimer that says: do not bulk up on rosemary and try to just eat all of it. Eating rosemary in bulk can put you into a coma and many other not so cool side effects.

This has been one of the easiest herbs that I have been able to grow. Rosemary can get between 1.5 and 3 meters tall- which is awesome. It can be used as an anti fungal remedy as well.

Fun Fact: this is a beneficial herb to help prevent scurvy and certain cancers.

I love that it is one of the many herbs that grows well in containers. I enjoy the smell and that is an evergreen. It is so pretty. Smells good, tastes good in food and has all of the benefits a humble farmer could want. It makes an excellent border shrub and repels certain insects.

I have dried out a large amount of rosemary and I am really excited about grinding it down. I have been making it into a powder and putting them in cork bottles. One day I plan on doing a lot with it. Unfortunately, my plants aren’t producing large quantities of rosemary just yet.

I have been thinking of it’s uses because I do not use powdered rosemary for cooking. Who knows, but the uses are endless.

Not recommended for women who are pregnant, nursing or wish to become pregnant. If you are taking medications that are prescribed or provide long term medical care always consult a physician before adding rosemary to your diet on a regular basis- as in more than 4 nights a week.

Just putting that out there so that if people see it prevents cancer they don’t eat three pounds, put themselves in a coma then sue me. I don’t have time for all of that nonsense.

Just know rosemary is easy to grow, does well against cats using it as camouflage to attack one another and my children love running their fingers through it and it doesn’t die. I can forget to water it and it doesn’t act dramatic.

Year Zero: Serious Moment

I have a five year plan. It is not a good plan and it changes from day to day but it is a plan. Right now, I have just left year zero. January 2021 is starting a new year for me.

You may ask:

What is Year Zero? Year Zero has been my year of planning. I also went around the area and looked at local nurseries. I wanted to see what everyone had to offer. It opened my eyes. I also planned to go back to college and learn about plant things.

Why is Year Zero so important? Year Zero is my planning year. We moved in October 2019 and that only started our adventure. During this year I have walked the property over five hundred times. I have learned the land-ish. There is a lot more to starting a permaculture food forest then I anticipated.

This is where I outlined my goals. I learned my property and I planted starter plants- which I will get into later. We have a lot to cover so I will continue.

Some of the trees ready for new homes

What does having a poorly planned year zero do for someone who is just starting out? This is a tough one because I had to reset my Year Zero last year. It was insanity. I killed every plant I got my hands on because I just jumped in. I thought I could just wish my garden into growth. It was poor planning and I wasted a lot of money on plants that died. So, don’t waste money use your year zero wisely. Learn to work with your property and not against it.

Year Zero is the most important year of planning and development. This is my year of research and getting to know my property. Here I started and failed then restarted after some research. Even still I am not 100% sure that everything will work out. My year one began with medicinal plants and evolved into the dreams of a food forest. Somewhere it evolved and I wanted to have real food security.

I learned a lot about the native plants that already live here and it inspired me to start a Monarch Butterfly Santuary. I started by going online and joining many types of groups. They kind of inspired me and so I continued with my year zero goals. I did way better than I anticipated.

The reason Year Zero is important is because it lays the foundation for success but remember: you can always switch it up later if your plans don’t work out. I know it sounds crazy but a lot of people (myself including) thought they could just jump in (like I did) and fail. I’ve learned it’s only a true failure if I stop trying and so I will continue.

It took me the better half of the first year to figure out I was doing things wrong and I might need to talk to experts. That’s why I enrolled in classes but I’ll share all of that information as I get it with you.

Squash flower (I think?)

Sure, I was in the best Facebook groups. Unfortunately I hadn’t been utilizing them. So I went online and I just dove into research on permaculture, companion planting, ph levels, soil samples and I was blown away by how much was out there. I will never know everything but I had started down a rabbit hole that brought me here to this blog.

Spoiler alert: my plants stopped dying. I got better at planting the more I learned and there is this feeling of happiness when you are using your own vegetables and fruits.

All throughout year zero I sat outside my plants hoping they might grow. It does not make plants grow faster.

Now I know I need a plan and in year zero it’s the perfect time to decide what you want and where you see that going in five years. Make it fun and exciting but remember: your plan must flow with the tide. So make sure you are ready for those changes and adaptations as you go. For example: I thought I could just put seeds in the dirt and it would just grow. It doesn’t work that way and now I know thanks to countless people.

Goals for my property and my life for the next five years. This is important because it gives me a general outline to work with. Remember, I am making plans but they are like the wind- every changing and straightforward.

In five years, I want to have every individual breed of plant I want on my property. Even if I do not have every part of my land covered (Which I most likely will seeing my progress already- it is a possibility). I am not talking about a neat little orchard- I want trees and shrubs. I want to be overwhelmed with sight, smell and feel like nature surrounds me.

Keep that in mind- it is the foundation for our success. My goals are not primarily food security, even though it is a reoccurring theme, but instead a food based garden of eden, a place for me to retire my body and my spirit. So, not all of my plants will be solely food based. I am going to continue on that note, but keep your goals in your mind.

Another goal I realized: I want the species here to be closer to disease resistant and ready to produce in five years. This means that in the first few years I have to plant my trees that need to be producing as well as create a water source.

In Year Zero, I am going through plant lists to find edible plants, flowering plants, herbs, and pollinators. I am collecting seeds and planting what I like to call guaranteed success plants such as blackberries. During Year Zero I did a lot of planning but then I began planting samples.

For example: I don’t know of I even like certain fruits- this is a great time to plant one or two and try them. If I don’t like them I won’t plant more of that particular tree. It’s good to know before I make a mass planting decision.

The ones that do well and we like: we plant more of them. The ones that don’t we just move on from and don’t plant more. At least we are keeping those three blueberries (if any of them survive), but I am hesitant of planting more until we know they will survive. That is one of many examples. We keep what we like but we don’t want continue any difficult plants. If something happens we want to make sure we can take care of it. (Eventually I hope it will take care of itself, in my old age I don’t want to be chasing around a 7 acre mess)

I want to cover my entire property in plants that are useful primarily with a little playroom for beautiful things. I want to retire in my own hand made forest and I want to leave it for my kids to enjoy. I cannot wait until I make my dream come true, but Year Zero opened my eyes to the many possibilities.

Frankly, Year Zero did not go as planned and there is a good chance your Year Zero will not be magnificentbut don’t give up. I killed a lot of plants that I want to blame on bizarre seeds from China that I never received. Really it all came down to poor planning.

Year one starts now in January and during that year I have a lot of things I would like to accomplish. But first let’s talk about what i have already got started:

  • 75 thornless blackberries, three different kinds.
  • 33 grape plants, twenty four muscadine, six concord, two seedless randoms from Wal-Mart, and one Spanish grape.
  • 8 apple trees, 4 persimmons, 4 pomegranates, 5 peaches, 3 plums, 4 cherries, 2 pears, 2 limes, 2 lemons, and 2 avadaco trees.
  • Planted many perennials and failed two gardens.

Year One I have new goals.

  • I would like to plant 100 additional thornless blackberry plants. This year so far we have planted 75. We know that blackberries will do great here and we want at least 200. We want to primarily plant thornless varieties which is also why we are not dying into raspberries.
  • Set up the irrigation system that will support the amount of plants that I want to bring in. We already bought two irrigation systems. One is set up for bushes and one is set up for the trees.
  • I want to plant a minimum of 25 different kinds of apple trees, but that may not be possible.
  • I want to focus on the 41 disease resistant breeds that grow in my zone. Zone 8a.
  • Focus on filling in the spaces between my trees with shrubs and berry bushes.
  • Expanding my seed collection
  • Creating a creek system that runs through our property
  • Planting as much as I can as fast as I can and keeping it all alive with magic

So, don’t give up. Year Zero seems hard on everyone. We’ve got this now onward to YEAR ONE.

A much more detailed goal list for Year One is coming but you’ll have to be patient. I am busy looking through seed catalogs while listening to permaculture information.

Beneficial Grants: Texas Monarch Butterfly Grant

I live in Texas. Howdy.

I was looking into things that could boost my permaculture food forest without costing me any money. As I was looking through the many grants. It all started with the Monarch Butterfly Grant.

This is a very small personal grant that cannot exceed past 400 per person/group. This grant can only be used to purchase plants (which is all I want- free plant money). So there are some rules to this particular grant that go further than that: they have to be native to Texas. I want Butterflies

As I wait for winter to be over I plan. My close friend LD always has a beautiful yard and I want to shine too. This has inspired me to look for money to supply my hobbies.

Challenge accepted.

I want all four hundred of those dollars so that I can expand my already amazing dream permaculture food forest. So I looked into it.

Agarita is one of the native plants. I hadn’t thought about this plant before -primarily because I was so narrow minded on the idea of a permaculture food forest- but I love that we have so many milkweed plants in my pasture because it attracts the butterflies.

That’s also how I happened upon this grant because I decided I wanted to start a butterfly garden to attract even more. The agarita has the nectar that the butterflies crave. If I have this lovely blossoming flower it will give the mom butterflies plenty of food – these plants also are great for other pollinators like bees. Keep that in mind.

It is a shrub that is pointy. I like pointy shrubs because they make good barriers to keep animals away from my property. Sold. They are an evergreen, drought tolerant and they also produce tasty berries (and makes delicious jelly). Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

These are my end game goals guys. I want to be on this list.

Flame acanthus also known as the hummingbird bush. This is absolutely beautiful and another shrub. This is considered a ‘profuse’ bloomer. It allegedly is a huge bloomer and that is exciting because it attracts not just monarch butterflies but also hummingbirds and bees. (It’s also a deer resistant and drought tolerant)

Kidneywood is so beautiful. I had no idea, they are allegedly really fragrant and attract bees and butterflies. They have many branches and they can get up to be 12 feet tall. That is amazing because it is also drought tolerant and can survive cold and heat. (Clay soil is acceptable here). I am digging it. Sounds like it will be a great place for butterflies to settle in and eat some nectar.

Cone Flower is something we already have but would love to have it planted everywhere. Who knew that it was a native Texas plant? Now I know and you do too. This is a perennial and has beneficial properties which I will probably go over at a later time. They bloom from April until September so this will give my early pollinators a snack before the rest bloom in May or June.

The application is online and the application and process seems very easy.

They say purple cone flower can be aggressive- I sure hope so. So keep that in mind.

Cenizo is just a cool name to have. If I get another pet (fingers crossed I don’t but if I do) I am going to name it Cenizo. Regardless, it is made for our zone. It flowers and can take the heat but it does need to be watered. They can get to be up to 8 feet tall. Sounds live privacy fence material to me.

Cenizo goes by another name Texas Sage. Amazingly enough I already have a couple growing. I had no idea. Also this plant does not appreciate heavy pruning- I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The fragrant or pink mimosa is another thorny shrub great for deer resistance and a nice barrier around my property (I hear it smells good too). Another early bloomer but it ends earlier too (March to July). The flowers are lovely and I would love to add them to my butterfly garden (or barrier I haven’t decided). Here is even more Information.

They will check up on us and I can’t wait. This adventure will be really exciting. I can’t wait to start.

Texas Lantana is something I already have growing and they are amazing. I kind of want more of them because they make a beautiful groundcover. All parts of this plant are poisonous and it is considered deer resistant.

Lantanas are perennial shrubs that can grow 2 to 4 foot tall. Wow, they just don’t seem to be scrubbing out for me. They’re just creeping across the ground. That is strange maybe next year they will perk up, regardless I would love to have more. One more link: Texas Lantana. Just in case you’re considering it. It is really beautiful.

Last but not least is Salvia texana and I want this one. If I got that grant I would definitely get this plant. This is a perennial herb and it grows to be up to 2 feet tall. It is drought tolerant and does well in clay or rocky soil (bonus i won’t need to modify the soil I have). Salvias are a perennial flower and have more than 75 species including autumn sage. That is something we already have in honor of my eldest child: Autumn Sage. This is a rabbit hole I’ll have to go down another time, but every new flower or sage that I have gets me more excited.

I have murdered lavender every single year I’ve tried it but look at her growing it like it’s nothing. I am so jealous of her naturally green thumb.

I will, of course, get more milkweed but that will place where where I want them primarily and have a large area in the middle of the garden. That sounds absolutely beautiful.

Can’t wait and I hope I get it, but I already have some of these plants. The milkweed does grow naturally and I want to entice Monarch butterflies. I want them to pollinate all of my fruit trees and attract all of the bees. I understand the importance of planting native plants and I can’t wait to get started.

I will share more grants as I come across more information.

Zone 8a: Pear Trees

I have heard good things about growing pears in my zone. A couple of my neighbors have some pear trees growing here and there. I know that they can grow in my area and rumor has it they do super well.

Our list of pears that fair well in zone 8a:

1) Kieffer Pear– they do well from 4 to 9 and do well in heat. This tree has a fast growth rate and can grow up to 2 whole feet a year. (I wish I knew the metric system). Yields in September and October, and is self furtile, but they encourage you to plant your pears in pairs just in case.

2) Shinseiki Asian Pear– this pear is preferred by people who like granny smith apples. They are usually imported from Japan (which I thought was cool). This pear tree fruits from July to August and enjoys having friend pear trees to produce.

3) 20th Century Nijisseiki Asia– this is another gem from Japan. This one is a late bloomer and will start to produce after 7 to 10 years. This pear is so popular in Japan that the first tree was declared a national monument in 1935. It’s original name was also Shin Haidaku and that was changed earlier in 1904.

4) D’Anjou Pear– this pear ends in zone 8. It is drought and cold resistant. This pear is not a heavy producer and is said to be primarily decorative and need a small orchard to produce. They attract pollunators and are harvestable in September. (It was also said to be sweet and juicy, for your own records)

5) Summercrisp Pear– these pear trees are bushy and are said to be healthier if you see barely any bark. I thought that was neat. This one is a dwarf tree and is resistent to fireblight.

6) Comica Pear – this pear has a redish blush and is called the sweetest of all pears. Kind of like the fairest in the land. It grows well in our area and is supposed to be one of the juicier pear types.

7) Bosc Pear– this one is a tan/brown, grows fast and harvests in September. This is a hardy tree. The fruit is large and they say it is one of the spicier pears.

8) Hosui Asian Pear– this grand producer. It is drought tolerant but produces better with regular water. Another fireblight resistant. When paired with New Century they allegedly produce better as well

9) New Century Asian Pear– the fruit is round and reminds me more of a pear colored apple. These pears ripen in late August.

10) Bartlett Pear– this is a dwarf pear tree and is the number one pear tree in the world. It is shorter with a spicier pear taste.

11) Moonglow Pear– this one is a strong pollinator for other pear trees. It produces in September and is juicy.

I’ll have to separate them soon

12) Seckle Pear– a desert pear, sweet and a bit spicy this pear is good for canning or fresh. It is also resistant to fireblight. They have small tye dyed brown fruit that produce mid September. It takes 4 to 6 years to produce fruit.

13) Starking Delicious Pear– fruit keeps well in a refrigerator, and is another strong pollinator for other pear trees. It is harvested in August and is allegedly a sweet pear.

14) Honeysweet Pear– harvesting in early September and a self pollinating pear this beautiful tree. The stark Brothers said, “sweet like honey”, whatever that means about sweetness.

Who knows what these are

15) Peggy Asian Pear– it takes 4 to 6 years to produce. This one was discovered in 2003, he named the pear after his wife. It blooms in late August early September. It’s juicy and sweet, which is great in a pear.

16) Chojuro Pear– definitely look like pear colored apples. They alleged it has a butterscotch flavor and like many others originated in Japan.

All pears require full sun. No exceptions and most need pollunators. Sure some self pollinate but they produce better with friends. I didn’t know there were so many but I can’t wait to plant them all.

This is exciting news and I can’t wait to find out what is going to grow in 8a next. This is super exciting.

Zone 8a: Limes

I am tired of citrus only posts. What about limes? They have their own identity. You can’t lump limes in with oranges. Limes are festive, they are a party. Oranges are a breakfast beverage and don’t get me started on grandpa Grapefruit.

Yet, it is all citrus. Well, this is all about limes that grow in zone 8a. That’s right, limes get their own article. Of course, do your own research, but this is my own. Ta-da

My random limes my husband bought at Lowe’s

1) Red Lime– oh yes, this red lime looks like a redish-orange lime/lemon shaped fruit that is slightly larger. They taste like a lime and they are cold hardy.

2) Persian “Bearss” Lime Tree– is listed two ways, a lot of pages are saying it begins in zone 9 and others are saying zone 8. I have seen these trees in area and they seem fine. They are tasty limes. (They also have a seedless version which is fun) They also have a spicy smell that is different than other lime trees. It is also the most widely grown commercially and the largest amount sold in the United States. Very cool information out there. I encourage you to look deeper yourself.

3) Key Lime Tree– most pages are starting that it won’t do well outdoors unless it’s in at least zone 9, but there are pages that claim to have successfully grown them in zone 8. They are probably not right for our homestead, but if you are looking for some extra winter work here it is. They are not frost tolerant and have specific care needs.

4) Australian Finger Lime– some say that it looks like a baby cucumber or a long lime. This is not your ordinary lime, inside are thousands of round prills. It is easy to cook with and has a flavor that allegedly sticks around. It grows in zones 8 to 11.

5) Limequat– allegedly grows in 8 to 11, but a lot of pages are saying don’t try it belong zone 9. Harvest is around November. It might need a little extra attention during the winter but seems to fair well.

Not going to lie, I was hoping for more. I am mildly disappointed in the amount of limes that can grow but as long as there is more than one I can cross pollinate. I’ll take what I can get. Until next time folks.

Zone 8a: Apples

Good morning, some things you should know before we hop into the list. Apple trees produce in three to five years, they prefer full sun, and require fellow trees to assist in pollination.

1) Anna Apple– this is a hybrid of the Golden delicious apple. This was specifically bred to with stand less chilly weather. They are red and green or green and yellow apples.

2) Beverly Hills Apple– these are blushy red apples and they need 300 chill hours (which led me to learn more about chill hours per plant)

3) Pink Lady– these ladies mature late and require 200 to 400 chill hours. They look green and red tye dye and are allegedly delicious.

4) Fuji Apple– they grow well all the way up to zone 9 which is neat. They have a sweet tart taste and are red apples. They are popular at the grocery store. This tree is not drought tolerant.

5) Dorsett Golden– growing in 5 to 9, with less than 100 chill hours this yellow green apple does well planted near the Anna Apple. The have fruit in June and July, which is awesome.

6) Mutsu Apple– this one ends at zone 8, it is not a drought hardy apple tree. Fun fact, this is a great pie, cider or other sweet things like jams and jellies. This tree blooms in September or October. (Layering your apple trees means you can have them for the majority of the growing season in our zone)

7) Pixie Crunch– looks like the kind of apple a witch might entice you with. They are a lovely bright red. They end at zone 8 but are great if you can keep their soil moist. Evil step mother approved

8) Gala Apple– another popular store bought apple and pollinates well with other Apple trees. It also ripens in September, which is a nice fall addition.

9) Granny Smith– this tart apple is more than just a great color, it also fits inside our grow zone. Another fun pollinator, and a fun fact: it originated in Australia.

10) Red Delicious– yes, the one and only favorite of the grocery store does grow in our zone. I am excited because this is my daughter’s favorite apple to take two bites from before forgetting it and running off to play. This one needs up to 900 chill hours and might do better near the colder part of the property. It also makes me nervous because it feels safer in zone 7 even thought it is listed for zone 8.

Please keep in mind that I do this blog for myself to narrow down which apple trees I want to plant on my property. I have a lot of land to fill.

Regardless, this is a great start to finding out the apple trees that are right for my homestead. Thank you for reading this far. Have a great day.

My Zone: 8a

Good day fair citizens. Doing research about my blue berries has led me to dig deeper and find out wow, blue berries need a lot of water and that I need to find out more about Zone 8.

It is fun to Click Here and find out where your land lands on the chart. Do not get me wrong, I am hip. I am in Facebook groups. I’ve seen people put 7a and 8b but I didn’t know.

For all I knew they could mean literally anything and at that point I wasn’t interested enough to investigate. I probably should have done this sooner.

Frankly, at this point we all see that i am just flying by the seat of my pants on this and have started way too many projects that I work on here and there as I can.

Here are some things I learned while I was snooping around about my new land status:

First, I knew that zone 8 consisted of temperatures from 10 to 20 degrees as the average minimum temperature. Zone 8a is just 10 to 15 degrees. I didn’t know why they split those were split up and if being in different subzones might change what i am planning on doing.

Second, I had no idea that the zones were from the typical low temperatures. I figured it was more of a yearly average. It was my confusion.

Third, the temperatures can dip below during harder winters but that is generally the colder temperatures of each season.

Finally, some genius pinpointed our first frost dates. Ours is October 11th to October 20th (for us it’s actually towards the end, but I’ll start documenting our first frost from here on out to get a more accurate account. The last frost falls between March 21 and March 31, which is cool because I did not know any of this information. If you want to know about your frost dates go HERE. It has information that might be helpful.

I have quite a bit more reading to do now that I know what I am looking for. Having doing a little more research into my particular zone has made me have a whole new outlook.

Yes, having fancy plants is nice, but there are so many great things that thrive in my hardiness zone. One thing that I have noticed in life is to work smarter not harder. I feel that with this new information I will be able to do great things with my fresh canvas. Maybe this information might be helpful to you as well.

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